Wednesday, June 02, 2010

Relational Idolatry in Families

Number one New York Times best-seller, The Purpose Driven Life begins, “It’s not about you. The purpose of your life is far greater than your own personal fulfillment, your peace of mind, or even your happiness. It’s far greater than your family, your career, or even your wildest dreams and ambitions. If you want to know why you were placed on this planet, you must begin with God. You were born by his purpose and for his purpose.”[1]

As we touched on in the last post, the words “It’s not about you” are hard to swallow when we live in an egocentric society where my needs and my desires are paramount. This grates against our prideful, self-centered, sinful nature that secretly whispers into our souls that we should seek our identity in anything other than our Savior. The poison of idolatry is subtle in our society. We may not have a temple to Artemis, a widely worshipped Greek goddess popular in the time when Paul wrote his letter to Ephesian believers, but idolatry is just as alive in twenty-first century America.

One subtle form of idolatry that has crept into the modern evangelical church is the idol of family. We treat our children as if they were the center of the universe—as if our worth, value, and significance rested in their ability to achieve. Tim Keller, author of Counterfeit Gods, writes, “Modern society…puts great pressure on individuals to prove their worth through personal achievement. It is not enough to be a good citizen or family member. You must win, be on top, to show you are the best…. From the earliest years, an alliance of parents and schools creates a pressure cooker of competition, designed to produce students who excel in everything…. The family is no longer what Christopher Lasch once called a ‘haven in a heartless world,’ a counterbalance to the dog-eat-dog areas of life. Instead, the family has become the nursery where the craving for success is first cultivated.”[2]

In Proverbs 22:6, we are instructed to, “Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it.” How are we raising our children in this dog-eat-dog world? In his sermon on this topic at First Baptist Church of Geneva, Pastor Jeff Frazier asked a provocative series of questions. “What would you rather have,” he asked, “to have your child become a great athlete, a great musician, a great student, a great scholar, a great business man or woman, or a great man or woman of God?” The question is posed to us. Are we eager to raise sons and daughters who count the cost, take up their cross, and follow Jesus Christ? Or are we content to raise children whose identity is found in their success, wealth, and personal achievement? In Ephesians 6:4, Paul exhorts fathers to not “exasperate your children.” By making idols out of our sons and daughters, we raise up bitter, resentful, jaded children.

It is not only parents who struggle with idolatry. The inherited sin nature with which we are born feeds us the lie that life is about self-satisfaction and self-glory. Parents do not need to teach a child to be selfish; it comes naturally. Therefore, throughout the child’s toddler years, parents stress the importance of sharing and taking turns. Parents have the responsibility of raising children who fear the Lord and keep His commands. Children have the responsibility to “obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right” (Eph. 6:1). And adult children should “honor your father and mother,” for this pleases the Lord (Eph. 6:2).

Consider whether there are any areas of relational idolatry in your own life. In what areas is God calling you to renounce the temptation to make life about you or the success of your children? Offer up a prayer to the Lord, asking Him to break any idols in your life and fill you with Himself as your all-surpassing Joy and Treasure!

[1] Warren, Rick. The Purpose-Driven Life: What On Earth am I Here For? Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2004. p. 5.
[2] Keller, Timothy. Counterfeit gods: The Empty Promises of Money, Sex, and Power, and the Only Hope that Matters. New York: Dutton, 2009. p. 79.

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